My colleague Heather Dinich had a great idea to examine offenses and defenses in the ACC that need repair and see which ones are on the fastest road to recovery. I'm totally stealing this concept for the Big Ten.
Let's start on the offensive side:
IN NEED OF REPAIR
1. Minnesota: The Gophers not only made a dramatic switch in style from the spread to the pro set last fall, but they incorporated a complex, and some would say convoluted, system of calls. The results weren't pretty, as Minnesota ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring (20.9 ppg), rushing (99.5 ypg) and total offense (306.5 ypg). Minnesota twice was shut out in league play.
2. Illinois: Despite having loads of experience at both quarterback and wide receiver, Illinois floundered on offense for more than half a season. The Illini struggled under new coordinator Mike Schultz, finishing 10th in the league in pass offense after leading the Big Ten in 2008. Quarterback Juice Williams, a four-year starter, was briefly replaced during Big Ten play as the Illini scored 17 points or fewer in six conference games.
3. Ohio State: Another Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl championship make it easy to forget how much Ohio State struggled on offense for most of 2009. Ohio State finished last in the Big Ten in passing (173.6 ypg) and seemed to be operating in no-mistakes mode for much of the fall. Terrelle Pryor and his teammates got it together in Pasadena, but Ohio State finished a middling 68th nationally in total offense for the season.
FASTEST ROAD TO RECOVERY
1. Ohio State: The Rose Bowl showed the Buckeyes' offense what it could be, and the unit took some steps forward this spring. Pryor looked a lot more comfortable both in practice and at the spring game, and while his mechanics might never be perfect, his footwork is much better. A veteran offensive line played well down the stretch last fall and should be even better in 2010, especially if Mike Adams locks down the left tackle spot.
2. Minnesota: The Gophers should be a better offense this fall for several reasons. They have experience at quarterback and a guy in Adam Weber who has succeeded earlier in his career. New coordinator Jeff Horton has simplified the system, a welcome change for players who went through information overload last fall. While the run game is a big question mark, the offensive line returns in full and drew favorable reviews from Weber and the coaches in spring ball.
3. Illinois: Talent isn't the problem at Illinois, but players still have to learn a new system under coordinator Paul Petrino and fill some big production holes at quarterback, receiver and offensive line. I really like the run game potential with Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford, and if Illinois can solidify its offensive line, the backs should take a lot of pressure off of a young quarterback like Nathan Scheelhaase. Illinois can certainly get it done on offense this fall, but there's work left to do.